For a person who loves queer cinema, the chance to get to program an LGBT film festivalas I did with Reeling last fallwas like manna from heaven. What a pleasure it was watching the gamut of queer movies from around the world and bringing them here for their Chicago debuts.
In the coming months several of these films will be available beyond festival circuit, including three of my favorites: Darren Stein's G.B.F., Rodney Evans' The Happy Sad and Rob Moretti's Truth. All three are available for download ( G.B.F. and The Happy Sad via i-tunes and Truth from Vimeo ). In addition, G.B.F. is getting a theatrical run beginning this Friday, Jan. 17, at Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton Ave.
Stein made his name with the hilarious teen comedy Jawbreaker and the horror campfest All About Evil, but with G.B.F. ( which stands for "gay best friend" for the two people who weren't quite sure ), he's made his most mainstream, audience-friendly film. Don't let the film's completely wrongheaded R-rating throw you off. G.B.F. is a delightful comedic confection that is sweet without being cloying, and sexy with nary a shirt being removed.
The script, by first-timer George Northy, was workshopped through the Outfest script program. Lesbian actress and producer Guinevere Turner sent the piece on to Stein, who fell in love with it. Working with a crack casting director, the lineup includes a batch of rising film actors and some gay-friendly veterans ( e.g., Megan Mullally, SNL's Horatio Sanz, Jonathan Silverman, Rebecca Gayheart and Natasha Lyonne as parents and teachers of this gaggle of beautiful brat packers ). The movie is a cross between beloved teen comedies Clueless and Mean Girls, and mixes in elements of Camp and TV's Glee.
The three most popular girls in high school, each fronting her own clique, duke it out to acquire fashion's newest must-have accessory: a gay best friend. They strike gold when the adorable and shy Tanner ( Michael J. Willett ) unexpectedly becomes the school's first openly gay student. From that point, nothing will stop these modern-day Heathers from trying to make him their new trophy. Naturally Tanner has his own G.B.F.the droll, endearing ( and also pretty cute ) Brent ( Broadway vet Paul Iacono ).
Brent is nursing his own secret crush on Tanner, who suddenly sees the size of his wardrobe increase along with his sense of self-importance, and who suddenly hasn't got time for Brent. Brent's mom ( Mullally ), discovering the crush and that her son is gay in the process, is like the poster child for PFLAG, bringing out an array of gay-themed movies ( including Brokeback Mountain ) that she wants to "share" with her horrified teen son. ( The scene Mullally and Iacono improvised is one of the film's highlights ).
As the most popular girls do their best to woo Tanner into becoming their special prom date ( the social event of the year, of course ), Tanner is starting to have guilt about leaving both Brent and his gal pal, Sophie ( Molly Tarlov ), behind. Everything builds to the big dance ( natch ) that is also under threat from a rabid anti-gay clan led by McKenzie ( Evanna Lynch, Harry Potter's Luna ).
Stein delivers another comic send-up of high school clique culture that delighted LGBT-festival audiences all through 2013. ( The opening night crowd at the Music Box loved it. ) With its enthusiastic, vibrant young cast and hot, candy-colored look ( the visuals really set the tone ), G.B.F. easily earns its crowd-pleaser status. Facets Cinematheque has of late been booking a lot more LGBT movie farefilling a hole that has been sorely lacking consistently for a whileand I urge fans to head there to see the movie and support queer cinema in Chicago. http://www.facets.org/pages/cinematheque/films/jan2014/gbf.php
Onto The Happy Sad: It took out director Rodney Evans ( see our interview in this issue ) a long time to find a follow-up to his wonderful 2004 debut Brother to Brother ( which also provided Anthony Mackie with his breakthrough role ). But Evans is back with the compelling relationship drama that explores the politics and protocols of open relationships. Marcus ( stage actor Leroy McClain ) and Aaron ( Chicago Fire's Charlie Barnett ), a gay Black couple in Brooklyn, are entering the sixth year of their relationship. But Aaron is feeling stifled and he cautiously brings up the idea to Marcus of opening the relationship to other sexual partners. To his surprise, a bemused Marcus agrees. Concurrently, a straight white coupleAnnie ( Sorel Carradine ) and Stan ( Cameron Scoggins, the talented actor and musician )are also both feeling constrained by the typical boundaries of monogamy and they, too, decide to open things up.
The foursome begins to explore new freedoms with some very surprising results that find Stan trysting with Marcus, Annie finding herself drawn to her newly out lesbian friend, and Aaron suddenly feeling unsure what he has started. Of course, when deeper emotions begin to enter the picture, all hell breaks loose.
As he did in Brother to Brother ( which in addition to focusing on the queer aspects of the Harlem Renaissance also focused on a gay interracial relationship ), Evans, working with a script by Ken Urban adapted from his play, explores some really interesting territory. The performances of the four leads drive the occasional hard-to-believe plot switches, with McClain and Barnett a rare ( and refreshing ) example of a gay Black couple onscreen ( and both are sexy as hell ). Scoggins' character is a musician ( which is meshed into the proceedings ) and his songs add a wonderful emotional charge to this sexy, insightful, and thought provoking movie. www.rodneyevansfilm.com/
Finally, for something completely different check out Truth, an over-the -top, old-fashioned suspenseful, psychological thriller from writer-director Rob Moretti ( who also stars ).
After a chance encounter over the Internet, Caleb ( Sean Paul Lockhart, Milk, Judas Kiss, Chillerama ) meets and falls head over heels for Jeremy ( Moretti ), and a hot and heavy affair commences. But soon the line between love and lies blurs as Jeremy blissfully ( or stupidlyand you'll have fun deciding which ) ignores the warning signs his sexy, uninhibited lover emits ( and, boy, does he ignore 'em ).
Struggling to keep his traumatized past a secret, stemming from the abuses of his mentally ill mother, Caleb slowly gives in to the dark side. A sudden turn of events escalates an already dangerous situation. Lockhart, who came to notoriety as gay porn star Brent Corrigan, is making a name for himself as an actor and turns in a very likeable performance here ( and, to be honest, still ain't too hard on the eyes ) and Moretti holds his own next to pretty boy Lockhart. As an unabashed, scenery-chewing melodrama, Truth is more than a bit of a guilty pleasureone of those movies you either go with all the way ( which I certainly did ) or not at all. I recommend you give this nifty, sexy little thriller a go. truth-the-movie.com/